The Duterte regime is a thinly disguised fascist state. Duterte exercises near absolute powers, employing the military and police as his armed agents to carry out his dictates. He uses anticommunism and anti-terrorism as his overarching ideology to justify his relentless attacks against civilians, his political opponents and all other democratic forces.
Duterte is presiding over a pseudo-democratic government. He professes to be bound by law but takes actions unbound by it. His strongman tactics have rendered the parliamentary and judicial branches of government ineffective, spineless and powerless. All democratic forces are being silenced, intimidated, neutralized and vanquished in a war of all-out suppression.
The entire country is now under a state of undeclared martial law. Military and police forces have been unleashed to invade the civil spheres of society in the name of counterinsurgency.
Duterte’s fascism aims to intensify the oppression and exploitation of the Filipino people through a campaign of extrajudicial killings and suppression of their democratic rights. He aims to destroy the people’s capability to defend and advance their interests. The Filipino people must unite and fight Duterte’s reign of fascist terror and resist his perpetuation scheme.
Elements of Duterte’s fascism
Duterte has imposed his reign of fascist terror through a combination of the following elements:
a. Demagoguery and promotion of lies and the most putrid ideology and culture
Duterte is a fascist demagogue. He plays on the broad masses’ popular sentiments and grievances, sense of social justice, patriotism, revolutionary traditions, and aspirations for a better life in order to misrepresent himself as one of the people. He wants to attract the support of the people, exert influence on the masses, while at the same time impose policies which oppress and burden them.
He made claims at the outset of being a “socialist” even if his program had nothing remotely in common with socialism, not even a tinge of promoting the people’s welfare. Duterte’s demagoguery, however, has been thoroughly exposed by his own actions.
He continues to claim he “hates corruption” yet he is in bed with the Marcoses and Arroyos and freed them from jail, has retained the detested pork barrel system and has pocketed billions of pesos from lopsided foreign loan and contracts. He falsely dresses himself up as someone with simple tastes to dissemble his penchant for private jets in official and personal travels and high-living for himself and his family. He has repeatedly railed against the oligarchs but is publicly known to favor certain big businessmen such as Lucio Tan, Ramon Ang, the Villars, Cojuangcos and others. He builds himself up as a champion of “land reform” to draw the peasants’ support away from the NPA, but is distributing not land but worthless pieces of paper obliging “beneficiaries” to amortize. He promised workers to end “endo” or job contractualization but refused to sign into law a bill that the capitalist employers do not approve of.
Duterte promotes the most putrid of ideologies and culture, reflective of the rottenness of the ruling semicolonial and semifeudal system. Using his presidential platform, he is infecting the people with his sick ideas contaminated with contempt for human rights, misogyny, prejudice against the poor, religious bigotry and anticommunist zealotry. Duterte has spewed the vilest condemnation of victims of drug addiction as “unhuman,” only to hide the protection of the illegal drug trade that worsened the despondency of the broad masses of unemployed.
He has made atrocious distortions of history, promoting Marcos as a hero and glorifying authoritarianism in a self-serving effort to justify his tyranny and bid to establish a dictatorship. To rationalize his appointment of large numbers of former officials of the AFP, he acclaims the military and military officers as disciplined and trustworthy, obscuring its long history of rights abuses, involvement in criminal syndicates and corruption.
A relentless information war promoting fake news, outright falsities and contrived public surveys is being carried out under Duterte’s fascism. Mouthpieces of Malacañang, the military, economic and other agencies daily spew brazen lies to paint a picture of “change” to conceal how things have worsened under Duterte. Independent and critical journalists and media organizations are being attacked, intimidated or browbeaten to compel them to self-censor and toe the government line.
b. Brazen killings, rights abuses and strongman tactics
Duterte has established himself a strongman by mounting a campaign of mass killings, primarily under the guise of the “drug war” under which the police officially acknowledged having killed more than 6,000 suspects since 2016, and where more than 25,000 other murders are “under investigation.” He followed this through with the war of destruction of Marawi which claimed thousands of deaths and destroyed the lives and livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people.
Publicly and otherwise, Duterte has made it clear that he is the ultimate mastermind behind the mass murder in order to demonstrate the extent to which he is capable of using his position for both legal and illegal acts. In conjunction with the killings, he has verbally attacked judges, local politicians, church officers and media personalities. He has dangled his “narcolist” as a weapon to make everyone kneel and bow to his power.
Duterte has directed his campaign of killings against social activists, especially among the peasant masses where more than 100 have been killed. The Tokhang-style of killings have been applied in Negros under the AFP and PNP’s “Oplan Sauron.”
Duterte has openly abetted and emboldened the military and police to carry out extrajudicial killings and rape. He has encouraged state security forces to disregard human rights, urging soldiers to “shoot (female rebels) in the vagina.” He has spoken brusquely against the United Nations Human Rights Commission, UN rapporteurs and against various international stalwarts of human rights.
c. Suppressing democratic organizations to impose fascist-type groups on the masses.
Duterte and his officials aim to deny the people of their right to form democratic organizations and impose fascist-type groups on the masses. Duterte wants to have a semblance of mass support for his despicable regime and use these “pro-Duterte” organizations to attack the various democratic mass organizations both politically and physically.
Duterte and key military and police officers are openly and unapologetically red-tagging various patriotic and democratic organizations. These organizations are falsely being accused of being fronts for NPA recruitment. They want to make these organizations susceptible to a mass crackdown either through the revival of the Anti-Subversion Law; or by pushing for the proscription of the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations under the Human Security Act; or by a mere Duterte fiat.
The fascists have employed red-tagging as well against entire peasant villages. Community residents have been rounded up and paraded as “surrenderees.” Regional, provincial and village councils have been compelled by the AFP to issue so-called “persona non grata” against the NPA as well as against red-tagged legal peasant organizations.
The ultimate aim of the fascist red-tagging is to destroy the militant trade unions and workers organizations, patriotic student groups, peasant associations demanding land reform and various democratic organizations. These organizations are being subjected to surveillance and intimidation. The Duterte fascists are vainly exerting extra effort to crush the youth and students organizations.
Duterte wants to force the people into fascist organizations. Such type of organizations are fanatically anticommunist and are openly and secretly established and supported by the military and police and composed mainly of lumpen and antisocial elements from among the politically and culturally backward segment of the masses.
These include the AFP and PNP-formed armed vigilante groups such as those in Negros and Northern Mindanao which publicly threaten to attack and are believed to be behind the murder of activists, human rights lawyers, civic-minded religious people and others. There is also the League of Parents which was initiated by the AFP and PNP to vilify youth activism. A group calling itself the Pagkakaisa Mamamayan Tungo sa Kaayusan recently ransacked and vandalized the office of the urban poor group Kadamay as military and police forces provided them security.
d. Martial law, declared and undeclared
The Philippines is under Duterte’s undeclared martial law. Duterte has put the entire island of Mindanao under martial law since May 2017. Through Memorandum Order 32, Duterte placed the Bicol region, Negros and Samar islands under military rule. The rest of the country is under undeclared martial law where the military imposes its authority in the name of counterinsurgency.
Encouraged by Duterte’s open fascist exhortation, soldiers and police personnel are brazenly abusing their powers in the conduct of its war of suppression. Cases of killings, torture, illegal arrests, abductions and other military and police abuses are on the rise. Military forces occupy communities, erect military detachments inside villages, imposing food and economic blockades, restricting the movement of residents and maintaining their intimidating presence to cow and silence the masses.
Duterte continues to harbor ambitions of imposing open fascist dictatorship ala Marcos or through charter change that will centralize powers under a pseudo-federal setup. He aims to perpetuate his treacherous and corrupt rule and his bureaucrat capitalist dynasty. He is ever fearful of ending his term in 2022 and face the people’s demands to make him accountable the mass killings, sell-out of sovereign rights and other innumerable crimes.
e. Anticommunism and counterinsurgency as cover for military invasion of the civil aspects of society aka “whole-of-nation” approach
Fascism under the Duterte regime is being strengthened and generalized with the military organization’s invasion of the civil spheres of society in the name of its “whole-of-nation” approach to anticommunism and counterinsurgency.
Under Duterte’s NTF-ELCAC, the entire government bureaucracy is being subsumed under the operational control of the AFP. Every national and local agency is now tasked by the AFP and the NTF to play its part in counterinsurgency. The AFP even wants to put universities and campuses under its influence.
With the NTF-ELCAC, the country is now under a virtual civil-military junta.
There remains the trappings of bourgeois-democratic processes such as the parliament and the courts, but these are practically under the thumb of Duterte. The lower house and senate are controlled by Duterte’s minions. Local government officials have long been intimidated. Uncooperative elements are under constant pressure to cooperate with the AFP’s counterinsurgency under pain of being accused as “rebel sympathizers.” Democratic organizations continue to be allowed to exist but only under decreasing degrees of legality and are under threat of being illegalized.
Anticommunism and counterinsurgency have become the central task of the Duterte regime with the AFP and PNP serving as his principal agents. Duterte has alloted a bigger budget for the AFP and for his own “intelligence” operations. He has appointed his favorite and most trusted military and police officers to head agencies and other key positions in the government. In addition to leading these agencies to perform their roles in counterinsurgency, they ensure that corruption including smuggling is centralized under Duterte.
The class character and social basis of Duterte’s fascism
Duterte’s fascism is the unbridled terrorist rule of the most reactionary elements of the ruling classes of big bourgeois compradors, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists in the country. Duterte represents the vilest and most bestial segment of the ruling reactionaries. He is from the same vein as the Marcoses and Arroyos and other Philippine icons of corruption and oppression. He is a megalomaniac with an avaricious appetite for power. He has risen to the top of the bureaucrat capitalist ladder and has resorted to fascism to eliminate all challengers and opponents.
The rise of Duterte’s fascism is deeply rooted in the basic problems of US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism in the Philippines. The overall aim of Duterte’s fascism is to salvage the ruling system in the face of continuing economic downtrend and threats of a sharp downturn amid continuing depression of the global capitalist system.
Duterte’s fascism seeks to destroy the democratic mass movement, the legal progressive parties and armed resistance of the oppressed masses demanding an end to the rotten semicolonial and semifeudal system. It seeks to crush the CPP and the NPA which comprise the most advanced, the strongest and most disciplined section of the broad masses of the Filipino people who stand for national liberation and social justice.
The specific aim of Duterte’s fascism is to corner for himself and his clique the decreasing amount of bureaucrat capitalist loot in the form of kickbacks from foreign loans, government contracts, pork barrel, discriminatory funds and others.
US imperialism is the principal purveyor of the Duterte fascist regime. The US government provides the AFP with funds and surplus materiél under the cover of its “war against terror” and the Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines (OPE-P). The AFP is the main pillar of US imperialist rule in the country and serves as the principal agent of Duterte’s fascist rule. The US imperialists support the AFP in its fascist invasion of civil society as it helps expand US influence and domination in the country, amid its rising superpower conflict with China.
By supporting the Duterte regime with loans and government contracts, in exchange for unprecedented access to Philippine resources and territory, imperialist China is also buttressing the Duterte fascist regime. In fact, it is to China’s favor that the kowtowing Duterte regime will perpetuate its rule through fascist measures as it will help advance and secure its strategic economic and politico-diplomatic interests in the country.
The rise of fascism in the Philippines indicates the increasing inability of the ruling classes to perpetuate their class rule in the old way. In 1972, Marcos declared martial law, abolished the ruling political system in one fell swoop and established a one-man dictatorship. The bourgeois-democratic and liberal trappings of the ruling political system were re-established under the post-Marcos 1987 constitution. These, however, are now fast being eroded by the fascist order being established by Duterte.
This inability to rule in the old way is a result both of the deep and virulent divisions within the ruling classes, and the rising challenge to the class rule by the organized resistance of the oppressed and exploited classes.
The economic crisis and production slowdown has made the pie of bureaucratic loot too small to be shared peaceably between the rapacious bureaucrat capitalists. Having only three more years in power, Duterte is in a hurry and desperate to secure his kickbacks from foreign loans and contracts from China. He is pushing hard to secure the joint contract with China for exploiting oil resources in the West Philippine Sea. His repeated threats of establishing a “revolutionary government” and unleashing his full fascist wrath if anyone will attempt to question these agreements has rendered the “checks and balances” of the political system ineffective.
The ruling state is now in the hands of a fascist clique that is intolerant of the democratic forces of the oppressed masses which challenge the exploitative and oppressive system. They fear that the socio-economic crisis marked by higher taxes, rising prices, low wages, joblessness, rural dispossession, reduction in social spending and so on, will incite the broad masses of peasants, workers, semiproletariat and pettybourgeoisie in unprecedentedly large numbers. The imposition of fascist terror seeks to prevent the masses from rising up in widespread democratic upheavals. The legal existence of their organizations under the reactionary constitution is being undermined by degrees.
Furthermore, over the past several decades, the ruling classes and the state security forces have failed to crush the revolutionary armed struggle despite one oplan and all-out military offensive after another. The resort to all-out fascism is a vain attempt to boost the AFP’s ability to wage a war to defeat the NPA. Under Marcos, the personnel of the AFP increased several times over from a few tens of thousands to a few hundred thousands. Similarly, Duterte has stepped up recruitment of new combat troops to form new military divisions and battalions.
Resist and end Duterte’s fascist regime
Almost five decades ago, Ferdinand Marcos placed the entire country under martial law which launched his brutal dictatorial rule. For 14 years, the Filipino people resisted valiantly and fought on all arenas of struggle. Serving as the strongest bulwark of anti-fascist resistance, the Party and the New People’s Army waged underground and armed struggle, inspiring and militating the Filipino people to unite and struggle for democracy. Culminating long years of anti-fascist resistance, the Filipino people rose up in their millions in 1986 causing the overthrow of the US-Marcos dictatorship.
The Filipino people today are subjected to the same fascist brutalities and cruelties under Duterte as the crisis of the ruling semicolonial and semifeudal system worsen ever more rapidly. The attacks against the people are far more brazen and are on a greater scale, particularly in terms of killings perpetrated by state forces.
The resort to fascism of the Duterte ruling reactionary clique indicates the overall crisis of the ruling system and its inability to perpetuate itself without using barefaced state terrorism. It further weakens the ruling state because it intensifies the contradictions not only between the oppressed masses and the ruling state, but also that between the different rival factions of the ruling classes.
The Filipino people must firmly resist and seek to end Duterte’s reign of fascist terror. They must fight for their democratic rights. They must vigorously struggle to prevent Duterte from perpetuating his rule, and demand that he be made accountable for all the crimes perpetrated by state forces under his regime.
Duterte’s fascist demagoguery and lies must be thoroughly exposed and repudiated. All its crimes must be roundly and widely condemned. The demand for justice must resound across the country. Duterte’s exercise of absolute power, his treachery and corruption must be denounced. The aggrandizement of the military into the civil spheres of society must be opposed. The people should be infused with courage in the difficult fight against Duterte’s fascist tyranny.
All democratic forces must come together in a broad anti-fascist united front against the Duterte regime. This must bring together the oppressed and exploited classes, the intellectuals and professionals, the academics, church, media workers, women, the youth and the anti-Duterte political opposition. They must be able to bring together millions of people in various forms and arenas of struggle.
The CPP and NPA remains the most consolidated bastion of the Filipino people’s anti-fascist resistance. All cadres and members of the CPP and Red fighters of the NPA must strengthen and steel themselves ideologically, politically and organizationally in order to be at the vanguard and core of the people’s struggle against the fascist Duterte regime.